How to Start a Difficult Conversation

There is one guaranteed strategy to avoid that uneasy tension at the start of every difficult conversation and make sure you get off on the right foot, this is what’ll I’ll be covering in this article.

Difficult Conversations SATNAV

Starting a difficult conversation the right way, will help you feel in control and help the person you’re having the conversation with feel relatively at ease. But if you get off to the wrong start , it can lead to all sorts of problems.

  • It can be tough to keep the conversation laser focused on the topic you want to discuss.
  • It can be tough ┬áto stay balanced and composed when the other person becomes defensive before you’ve even delved into the big issues of your conversation.
  • And it can be really frustrating when you’ve worked so hard to raise the issues you want to discuss, talk them through and listen to what they’ve got to say only to come away with absolutely no resolution or way forward.

So this strategy is going to be important to avoid all these stumbling blocks.

I like to think of a difficult conversation just like a car journey. You need two things to make it productive;

1. First to know where you’re going, a destination point. This is the purpose for having the conversation.

2. Second you need a road map, this is your process for reaching your destination.

Now in the good old days before SatNav’s became a common feature in most of our cars, if I was heading off on a journey to somewhere unfamiliar, a place I’d never been before I would always spend 10 minutes studying the map to plot out my journey. I’d think about the route I needed to take, decide whether to go across country or take the motorway and figure out where would be a good place to stop and pick up a coffee or take a break. This would also help me estimate how long the journey would take.

I did this because when I jumped in the car I’d have a pretty good idea of the route I needed to take in order to get to where I was going, sounds simple right?

The times when I just jumped in the car without planning ahead were the times when I either got lost – and that was frustrating because it meant I would tend to arrive late to an appointment or on rare occasions I just gave up, turned around and went home.

I know this sounds like common sense but rarely does common sense become common practice.

Just like a car journey, every time I have planned my difficult conversations ahead of time I’ve always arrived at my destination.

So know where you’re heading and have a strategy for getting there.

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  • Neil Denny

    Interesting post. I think we can take the planning too far though. There is a risk that if we are to rigid in our preconceptions about our route that we lose the ability to hear and learn from the other person’s perspective. When that happens we can still arrive at our destination only to realise we’ve left our passengers behind, somewhere along the way.

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